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Officials: Multiple beaches close after more medical waste washes up

Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen announced Saturday that medical waste that had washed up on the East Atlantic Beach shoreline Friday afternoon, which included hypodermic needles, has been contained. However, out of precaution, the beach will remain closed Saturday to clean up any more medical waste that may wash up with the tide. (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

Nassau County and Hempstead Town officials closed multiple oceanfront beaches Saturday after additional needles and medical waste washed up on the shore in Lido Beach and Atlantic Beach.

Hypodermic needles and other medical waste were found at Lido West Park and in the village of Atlantic Beach on Saturday, a day after medical waste and three dozen syringes were first found in East Atlantic Beach.

Officials closed the county’s Nickerson Beach and Hempstead beaches at Malibu Beach, the Town Park at Sands and at Lido Beach, Lido West, Point Lookout, and Hewlett Point Park.

Atlantic Beach Mayor George Pappas said medical waste and needles also washed up in Atlantic Beach Saturday afternoon.

“Right now our beaches are closed,” Pappas said. “The safety of our residents is the most important.”

While the beaches surrounding Long Beach were closed, Long Beach officials said they would keep the city’s beaches open on the largest section of the 7-mile barrier island on the Atlantic Ocean.

City officials said lifeguards were monitoring beaches for any medical waste that may wash up, but the Long Beach chief of lifeguards determined the beach and ocean was safe.

About 50 to 60 items of medical waste, including more than 30 hypodermic needles, washed up Friday evening in a section of beach between Ohio Avenue in Long Beach and Clayton Avenue in East Atlantic Beach.

Authorities also found syringes and medical waste Saturday afternoon, about 5 miles east of East Atlantic Beach at Hempstead’s Lido West Park.

Both beaches were closed until further notice.

Because of Friday evening’s discovery, large beach-sweeping vehicles and beach crews with rakes sifted the sand Saturday starting at 6 a.m.

“The health and safety of our beachgoers and staff are paramount of our concern,” Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen said.

A town lifeguard discovered the needles and waste washed up on East Atlantic Beach about 5:30 p.m. Friday and put the syringes in a Gatorade bottle to be taken for testing. No injuries were reported, Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said.

Most blood diseases die when exposed to air or saltwater, but officials advised anyone who may come in contact with needles to call 911 and to seek medical treatment immediately.

Residents were discouraged from touching any materials and wait for police to properly dispose of any hazardous materials.

Nassau police are asking anyone with information to call Nassau County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-244-TIPS.

Police are working with bay constables, the NYPD, the Department of Environmental Conservation, State Police and state park police to determine the source of the medical waste.

“It could have been a bag of trash thrown in the canal and circulated back around,” Ryder said. “It could be accidental by a diabetic or an illegal dump, but it poses a hazard to our beaches.”

Authorities said the material may have been in a bag that broke and scattered with the waves for about a quarter-mile onto shore.

Police should have test results early next week of what substances were present, such as insulin. Police will also look for any numbers or identifying markings on the syringes to trace the source.

Elected officials including Gillen, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), Assemb. Missy Miller (R-Atlantic Beach) and Hempstead Councilman Bruce Blakeman gathered Saturday morning on the beach at Troy Avenue where the debris first washed up.

Officials said they are hopeful this was an isolated incident after medical waste plagued the shore decades ago.

High winds and surf pushed medical waste and debris on to Long Island beaches in 1988, closing 100 miles of coastline.

“Our pristine beaches define who we are, and we all have nightmares of a decade or more when waste washed up on the beach,” Kaminsky said. “Let’s hope this was a one-off incident and not a systematic problem. We will remain vigilant and let the public know this will not be tolerated.”

Eric Landsman, who serves on the East Atlantic Beach Taxpayers Association, said he was surfing Friday morning and didn’t see anything wash up on shore and planned to return to the beach once it was cleared.

“Unfortunately it’s a byproduct of the society we live in,” Landsman said. “Maybe it was an honest mistake. This beach is the jewel in our crown and the reason we live here.”


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